Some people like fast cars. Some people like fine wine or rare whiskey. Some people pay $1,200 for a video card. If you’re one of those people, then chances are you’ve had your eye on Nvidia’s latest heavy hitter, the TITAN X Pascal Graphics Card. This continues Nvidia’s tradition of selling big ol’ chunks of plastic and silicon for way too much money in the hopes that you’ll buy them. You probably will! But is it worth it? Let’s take a look.
We can probably skip over all the details and say that the TITAN X Pascal is the video card you want if you’ve got money to burn and an overwhelming desire to own the best. It is, simply put, the most powerful single-GPU solution that’s readily available at the moment; I would imagine there are some business-grade options that can match up to the Titan, but let’s not see how far that particular rabbit hole goes. For the moment, outside of some esoteric choices, this is the king. We can talk about this again in mid-2017, at which point we’ll have probably seen the release of a 1080ti model, but for now this is what you want.
Despite the name, this Titan isn’t especially big; it’s around the same size as any other GPU, really, so pick a PCI-E slot, slam it in, connect an 8-pin and 6-pin connector (the Titan’s 250W TDP speaks to Pascal’s focus on power efficiency), hook up your screen of choice via HDMI or DisplayPort (you DO have a G-Sync-capable monitor if you’re shelling out for this kind of card, right…?) and get to gaming. As with most cards in this day and age, setup is simple and generally idiot-proof; if you can put Lego together, you can install a GPU, and that even goes for this bad boy. The only hiccup I ran into was some flickering during the first boot after I installed the Titan, but a reboot solved that and it’s been humming away painlessly ever since.
I say “humming,” but it’s worth noting that this uses a standard Nvidia blower, so it might not always hum. Every good superhero has a weakness, after all, and the Titan’s is its cooling. Seriously taxing this card will result in a dull roar as the blower calls upon the power of the wind to try and stop your evil heat-generating schemes. The Titan DOES stay cool (in my experiencing capping out at around 83 to 85 degrees Celsius under load, which is on par with the EVGA 980ti I was previously using), so the blower works, but it can certainly be loud and that might be an irritation if you’re used to near-silent cards.
On the bright side, it’s not nearly as loud if you aren’t pushing it, so unless you’re playing the newest games at the highest settings and an impressive resolution, the Titan will run nearly silent. I haven’t tried a watercooling solution for the Titan, though they do exist and I’d assume they help deal with this issue nicely; as the card can apparently downclock a little at very extreme temperatures this might even improve performance to some degree. Even a downclocked Titan seems to handle pretty much any task without breaking a sweat, though…except for the sweat it’s breaking because it’s too hot, thus necessitating the downclock, and…yeah, let’s just move on.
Besides, who cares about noise? Let it wake up everyone in the house! Once they’re trying to yell at you for your loud-ass computer you can tell them about the Titan X Pascal’s specs. It’s got 12GB of GDDR5X VRAM running at 10GBPS and it runs at a base clock of 1417mhz, with a boost clock of 1531mhz. It’s also got 3584 CUDA codes and 224 texture units; this is easiest to understand if you imagine a huge army of over 3500 ninjas ready to assassinate some polygons or something like that. It’s a lot. Naturally, it can do all the fancy things you’d expect a high-end Nvidia card to do as well, like take fancy screenshots with Ansel, stream and record with minimal performance impact with GameStream and Shadowplay and so on.
You can even hook two of these up in SLI if you felt you needed that for whatever reason. You probably don’t, and I’ve found SLI to be a pain in the butt that doesn’t really offer the kind of benefits that merit its associated annoyances, but the option is there!
Specs are just numbers, though. Feel free to throw actual, honest-to-goodness games at the Titan and watch your buyer’s remorse melt away into puddles of joy. It’ll chew through those pixel-pushers in no time flat; honestly, if you’re gaming at anything less than 1440p, you’re wasting your money at this point since absurd framerates at 1080p are a foregone conclusion with the Titan. Even 1440p doesn’t really strain this card.
I put the Titan though its paces on several big titles I’ve played over the past year, and the improvements were astounding. Blizzard’s Overwatch maintains 60 FPS at 1440p, as do more intensive blockbusters like The Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and (of course) GTAV. Like Céline Dion, the list goes on and on and on. You can assume that most games are going to shine with this level of power, and if they don’t it’s probably not the card’s fault.
So, naturally, you’ll want to step it up and try gaming in 4K. The TITAN X fares well even here, with gorgeous games like The Witcher 3 and Metal Gear Solid V taking the most advantage of the available horsepower. Playing newer fare like ReCore at 60FPS in 4K might be enough to make you swear off console gaming forever; ReCore itself might not be the greatest game ever made, but the PC version is drastically improved over the Xbox One release and runs absolutely fantastic. I don’t think I’d call 4K gaming the next big evolution in visual fidelity, but it’s certainly nice; the real benefit of having a powerful GPU like the Titan is the ability to play games at the highest possible framerate, which is much more significant and helps produce that “next-gen” feeling you’re hankering for.
That’s not to say every game runs perfectly; there are engine limitations and such to keep in mind. Crysis 3 still chokes a little on scenes with heavy foliage, for instance; The Witcher 3, a game that looks about as good, handles similar scenes perfectly. Hitman (2016) is a personal favorite, but even on PC with the TITAN X you’ll still run into hitches that can’t be blamed on your hardware. Many PC games also remain locked at 30 FPS, even in The Year of Our Lord 2016, so you can expect (for example) the PC ports of Tales of Symphonia and Final Fantasy X/X-II to look and run like crap despite having the might of the Titan backing them up. Some of these games have mods available, but often this sort of lock is there to stay and results in a game looking and feeling questionable permanently.
Still, you’re going to get a better experience with pretty much any game than you would on a console! You’re also going to be paying like five times as much when it’s all said and done, but hey: if that was a problem, you wouldn’t be studying up on stupidly expensive video cards, right? PC gaming is all about tailoring your experience based on how much you’re willing and able to invest in that experience, and if you want the best, you’ve got it right here.
If the question here is whether or not the card is “worth it”…well, that’s really up to you, more so than with most hardware purchases. You’re paying for the best here. It lives up to the hype. At the same time, a GeForce GTX 1080 will do much of what the Titan does at around half the price and a GTX 1070 will be just as good if you’re gaming on 1080p for around a quarter of the price. They’re both excellent options that will probably do the same thing for you while costing much less; what’s more, there’s bound to be a GTX 1080 Ti at some point that’s even more powerful than the 1080, and chances are it’ll still cost less than the TITAN X Pascal while offering similar performance.
That’s the rational argument. Let’s get irrational: if you’ve got the money and hedonistic fantasies that lean more toward computer hardware than drugs, cars or gambling, then the TITAN X Pascal Graphics Card is your Huckleberry. Sure, that 1080 will do everything you want, passing every test with flying colors…but it’s not a Titan, now is it? Don’t take out a payday loan for it or anything like that, but if you can comfortably purchase one without enduring undue financial hardship, at least I feel justified with its price for 1440p and 4K.